Ryft Brings in-Person Card Payments to St Helena for the First Time
Ryft, an FCA-licensed UK fintech providing PSD2-compliant payments systems for marketplaces and their merchants, has worked with St Helena Government to enable businesses on the island to accept in-person, real-time electronic Visa and Mastercard card payments for the first time. St Helena Government aims to have multiple businesses and Government departments onboarded in the coming months, and it is hoped that the move will drive up visitor spending by 10 per cent by the end of 2024 as part of Government’s digital transformation and tourism recovery strategies.
St Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean more than 1,200 miles off the west coast of southern Africa, has a population of under 4,500 and its economy is heavily dependent on tourism, predominantly from the UK and South Africa. The island’s remoteness and small size have meant it has historically struggled to access international merchant payment platforms. As a result, visitors have previously only been able to conduct transactions in cash (using either Sterling or St Helena Pounds, which are tied to GBP) – and with cash withdrawals only possible in person at the Bank of St Helena on the island and neighbouring Ascension, and incurring a five per cent fee, this has been a drag on tourist spending.
By making it easier for visitors to spend money around the island, the ability for local businesses and organisations to accept Visa and Mastercard payments should improve the visitor experience and contribute to economic growth on the island.
Mark Brooks, Minister for the Treasury, Infrastructure, and Sustainable Development Portfolio at St Helena Government, said: “Barriers resulting from our remoteness have meant that technology adoption has always been delayed on our small and isolated island – the internet didn’t arrive until 1995, and mobile phones weren’t commonplace until 2015. But digital transformation is at the heart of our plans for economic growth as we work hard to recover from the hammer blows dealt to the tourism industry by the Covid-19 pandemic. We couldn’t accept any longer the barriers our cash-based economy put in front of cruise passengers and other tourists, limiting their ability and appetite to spend with our local businesses. Many larger companies simply aren’t interested in the challenge of solving problems like these in circumstances like ours – we’re pleased to be working with Ryft, who were innovative and agile enough to take an interest and find a solution.”
Businesses on St Helena can now apply directly to Ryft to be able to accept Visa and Mastercard payments, with funds able to be deposited in Bank of St Helena and UK bank accounts. Ryft has worked to develop a bespoke and streamlined application and onboarding process to account for the fact that St Helena’s local laws and practices differ from the UK’s, preventing businesses from supplying some of the documentation that would usually be required, while maintaining compliance standards.
“We often find ourselves being approached to solve problems for partners where nobody else has been able to, so we were excited to support St Helena Government in this important and ambitious drive to transform the island’s economy. As tourist destinations around the world continue to adapt and rebound in the post-pandemic world, reducing barriers to spending and supporting local businesses is a critical part of the recovery and regrowth process. We’re pleased to be part of that for St Helena, and look forward to working together to see what we can achieve next,” said Sadra Hosseini, co-founder and CEO at Ryft.
Ryft announced its £1.2 million seed funding round, led by SFC Capital, in September 2022, and secured its FCA licence in April 2023.
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